For most people, camping can be a mildly uncomfortable experience. No toilets, no showers, no soft beds—just the wilderness, your camping gear, and if you’re lucky, a functioning public toilet nearby. Nevertheless, the discomfort is always a part of the true camping experience.
However, the discomfort that shouldn’t be part of your camping trip is the one caused by an illness. Getting sick while out in the woods is often a recipe for disaster. Even if it’s just a common cold, you will likely feel horrible throughout the trip and have to sit out most of the activities. Worse, you may even have to cut the trip short and go back home to recover.
That said, here are some of the best ways how you can avoid getting sick—and thus keep the trip going—while camping.
Apply mosquito repellent liberally
Out in the wilderness, you don’t have the luxury that your mosquito control solution back home provides. And if you’re out camping in parts of the country where mosquito-borne illnesses are known to outbreak, you may be putting your health at risk if you don’t take the proper precautions.
The best and sometimes the only way to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes is to apply a liberal amount of mosquito repellent on all of your exposed skin. Do this before you get out of the car and hike to your campsite. Moreover, make it a point to reapply repellent before you go to sleep and after you take a swim. Even if there are no known mosquito-borne diseases where you plan to camp, not having to deal with painful bites is always worth the effort.
Don’t drink the water in nature—just don’t
No matter how clear that spring looks, do not drink the water unless you purify it. Regardless of how clean water looks, there may be millions of bacteria and parasites swimming in it. If you drink it, you can get diarrhea, vomiting, stomachaches, and other symptoms of water-borne illnesses. Not only that, but you may also put yourself at risk for dehydration, which is extremely dangerous while you’re out in the backwoods.
To avoid having to drink water from a stream or brook, bring enough water with you. Alternatively, boil the unpurified water or use iodine tablets to make it clean enough for drinking. It’s also a good idea to invest in a filtration straw with a mechanical filter that will allow you to drink straight from a body of water.
Pack warm clothes
Yes, even if the weather app says it’s going to be hot all week. It can get very cold outside at night, including during the summer months, and you may find yourself in trouble if you don’t pack enough warm clothes. Don’t just rely on your sleeping bag to keep you warm—you need extra layers to protect your body from cold temperatures throughout the night.
Cook everything you eat thoroughly
Camping is not the time to eat your steaks medium-rare or make sashimi out of the fish you caught in the river. Bacteria can easily contaminate raw food in an inherently unsanitary environment, and you don’t want to take that risk even if you brought a cooler with you. That said, cook raw food thoroughly before eating it, including meat, eggs, and vegetables. For fruits, wash and peel the outside before eating, and make sure your hands are clean.
Clean your cooking utensils
This includes your grill, cutting surfaces, knives, and dishware. Bring dishwashing soap and wash your utensils in boiled water. If you don’t have dishwashing soap, you will have to boil the tools for a few minutes before you can use them.
For quick sanitation, you can also wipe them down with alcohol, ammonia, or another safe solution.
Be careful where you touch
If it looks dirty or gross, don’t touch it. Wash your hands immediately if you accidentally do so. And if you must poke around something that looks nasty, use a stick instead of your bare hands.
Practice good hand hygiene
When camping, you likely have germs on your hands more often than not. To avoid making yourself sick, wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your face.
Getting sick while camping is a nightmare, and if you’ve never had this experience before—trust us, you wouldn’t want to. With that in mind, follow these tips when going on your next camping trip, and be sure that everyone else is also aware so that they don’t get sick and pass it onto you.